Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin recognizes that the Republican party has a serious problem with crackpotism, the tendency to take seriously candidates and ideas from the far-right fringe of the party. And she thinks the party needs to get rid of that problem quickly.
But Republicans have their own problem: They tolerate far too many crackpots.
Dr. Ben Carson joins Mike Huckabee in refusing to accept that Supreme Court decisions, on gay marriage for example, are binding. Pressed by Chris Wallace, Carson insisted that Marbury v. Madison and more than 200 years of history have not settled the issue. “It is an open question. It needs to be discussed.” Actually, it’s not open, and him taking this seriously should disqualify him from office since he is telling us up front he won’t be bound by court decisions, something not even President Obama has done.
Huckabee has said much the same thing. And to boot he’s hawked “nutritional supplements” as a cure to diabetes. He insisted on Sunday, “One of the elements of the plan was dietary supplements, but it is not the fundamental thing.” (Then why encourage people to buy them?) He declared, “I don’t have to defend everything that I’ve ever done.” So he’s both a constitutional and dietary charlatan. Either one should disqualify him.
Then there is Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who cynically chooses to pander to the conspiracy-mongers who turning a military exercise primarily in Texas into a secret plan to impose martial law. Cruz has taken their nonsense as legitimate and made inquiries at the Pentagon. Rich Lowry hit the nail on the head on ABC, calling this “pandering to a vocal minority.” He continued, “I’m all in favor of a healthy distrust of the government but not paranoia. There are many threats to our liberty. The U.S. military isn’t one of them. And besides, federal control of Texas is something that was pretty much established in the mid-19th century by President Polk. So, the idea that the federal government is going to go in and retake over Texas is just nonsense.” (You’ll recall that former Texas governor Rick Perry stood up to tell the conspiracy nuts to knock it off.)
In less obvious ways, some presidential hopefuls also play on the ignorance and fear of the public. How many times has Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) falsely suggested the National Security Agency is listening to the content of millions of phone calls? Before reversing himself, he also gave support to the anti-vaccine hooey. At what point do voters say, you know, that’s not the mindset or character of someone who we’d want as president?
But therein lies the real problem: The popularity of crackpots is entirely the fault of the Republican base. At what point do Republican voters say that? At no point in the foreseeable future. And the professionals that run the party, as much as they’d like to purge the party of the far-right fringe, know they can’t risk losing such a large percentage of their voting coalition. It’s a hell of a dilemma for them.